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New Year's Resolution 2023: Don't Chase Crazy

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Holiday breaks are always incredible for educators. They allow time for relaxation, spending time with loved ones, and potentially a little less crazy (depending on your loved ones). As well, this holiday break is when we start the year anew. A new year and a new semester bring many new hopes. Half of the school year is left; in most cases, the second half tends to be the most stressful due to state assessments. I wish you all the best in 2023, and I have a bit of advice: don't chase crazy in 2023!

What do I mean by this? As a former principal who has supported hundreds of school leaders, I know what tends to happen during the spring semester. We let crazy, chaos, and coordinating get in the way of doing what we love, what we want to do, and what we should do: ensure learning. Crazy in schools always exists. You can find it even if you’re not looking for it, but what if you went looking for learning in your school and spent your time, energy, and focus there? Do you think maybe there might be a little less crazy?

I get it; this idea of spending your time focused on learning might seem a little ‘pie in the sky,’ but I can assure you that I see more leaders ‘chasing crazy’ than ensuring learning on any given day in schools. Why is that? Because sometimes, crazy is easy to deal with than supporting learning. To focus on learning, we must monitor learning in classrooms, know what effective learning practices look like, work alongside teachers to support their efforts, and remove barriers for teachers and students. That is hard work! Sometimes it’s easier to deal with the crazy, the chaos, and the coordination of activities:

  • The angry parent wants to speak to an administrator “right now.”

  • Lunches dismissed late due to student behavior issues mess up the schedule for the rest of the day.

  • A student who said a bad word while talking to another student.

  • All the testing plans for the millions of tests we’re required to administer.

We could all list a million things that keep you from focusing on learning. Don’t get me wrong, I know some things are crazy and derail all efforts or plans you have for the day (the threats, investigations, pop-up meetings you can’t control), but when it’s every day, you need to reflect on why this might be happening and think about the root cause. I am writing this article because I want each of you to be successful for your teachers and, most importantly, your students. Our field is seeing increased burnout, and many administrators are considering leaving their profession because of the stress and overwhelming workloads. I don’t want that for you because we need you, and your students need you. So here are my tips for ‘stop chasing crazy’:

  1. Confront: What is causing you not to spend time focusing on learning? No one got into a school leadership role to be a ‘chaos coordinator.’ You were most likely a great teacher and wanted to expand your impact. The things causing you not to focus on learning most likely follow a pattern. Be bold and confront what keeps you from focusing on and supporting learning. Determine if a pattern exists and analyze the root cause of why it might be happening (Five Why Protocol). You might be surprised that the solution is a simple fix to a system, an expectation, or a lack of communication.

  2. Coordinate: Time and resource management are among the most critical leadership skills. If you struggle with these skills, find strategies that work for you. The most effective approach is to use your calendar to organize all tasks. These tasks include classroom walkthroughs, planning meetings, time to coach teachers, and basic tasks you must complete as part of your job responsibilities. For example, as a principal, I had ‘office time’ and ‘learning time.’ I worked with my Assistant each week to map out my calendar to ensure I had ample time to get the work done I needed to while also spending up to three days a week focused on learning. Another area of opportunity is the calibration and coordination with the resources (staff) you have available to you. Each week school leaders should formally meet with their support staff (APs, Coaches, Counselors, Office Staff, etc.) to coordinate each other’s time and tasks to ensure learning in every classroom.

  3. De-implement: What work, tasks, programs, policies, or practices need to be de-implemented? The act of de-implementation is something we don’t do well in education. We try to implement too many things at once while not implementing anything. The list of things we think we have to complete or do becomes overwhelming, making us default to what we perceive as the easiest. For some, that default is ‘chasing crazy.’ Any effective school only does a few things well. Determine what those things are for your school and implement the hell out of them while strategically abandoning the rest. Here is a tool to help you de-implement.

Start 2023 off right with a focus on learning. I promise you’ll see the rewards from those efforts and might regain your groove, passion, and purpose. We tend to consider what we want to start doing for our New Year’s resolutions, but I want you to consider stopping ‘chasing crazy.’ You got this! Best of luck in the new year!


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